Connecting our Corpsmembers to Conservation Careers

How are Black folks building community power in East Oakland?  How do you get a job at East Bay Regional Park District?  Do you like refurbishing electronics?  Ever thought about majoring in Conservation & Resource Management at Merritt College?  These are just a few of the questions and topics discussed at our annual College & Career Fair on April 9.

Dozens of Corpsmembers and staff participated in the Fair (over Zoom of course) with a full roster of presentations from an array of vocational and college partners.  Our friends from Rising Sun Center for Opportunity, the Contra Costa Water District, Merritt College’s Conservation and Resource Management program, EBMUD, Black Cultural Zone, EBRPD and Tech Exchange joined us for a lively and interactive morning of presentations and conversations.

Eduardo Drops Some Knowledge

We’re a tad biased, but we were especially excited to welcome alumnus (Class of 2003) and current Board member Eduardo Chaidez to the Fair.  The eagle-eyed reader will remember that we profiled Eduardo upon his appointment to the Civicorps Board in July 2020. At the College & Career Fair, Eduardo gave an in-depth presentation about his path to becoming an Interpretive Park Ranger for the National Park Service.

Eduardo explained that because the National Park Service (NPS) employee roster is 77% white, they do lots of outreach in colleges to recruit staff of color.  While studying as an undergrad at UC Berkeley, Eduardo did a Latino Heritage Internship Program through NPS.  He notes that he wouldn’t have even considered the internship if he hadn’t already been exposed to national parks and conservation work, starting at Civicorps in the early 2000’s, followed by a stint in the Backcountry Trails Program.  In fact, Eduardo says the Backcountry Trails Program changed his life.

It really showed me there was a whole world out there; it changed my perspective on a lot of things for a kid from deep East Oakland.  It taught me the importance of protecting nature and the meaning of conservation.

Fast Forward to 2021

As an Interpretive Park Ranger working at the John Muir National Historic Site in Martinez, Eduardo shared his perspective on how he engages visitors about Muir, aka the well-known “old white guy who lived a long time ago.”

It’s difficult to get people connected when they see a photo of Muir with President Teddy Roosevelt at Yosemite, taken upon the establishment of national parks. Eduardo takes care to share the bigger picture by looking at the other side of the story – there were indigenous people cultivating and inhabiting the land in Yosemite for centuries before John Muir arrived.  As well, Eduardo pointed out, a regiment of Buffalo Soldiers was assigned to protect Yosemite during Roosevelt’s visit.  The 9th Cavalry Troops were among the first ones to protect Yosemite, Yellowstone and Sequoia National Parks from poachers, wildfires, and they built trails and roads as well. They were arguably the first park rangers, after whom the modern ranger hats are modeled.

The history of people of color and the outdoors runs deep….

….so concluded Eduardo, as he invited Corpsmembers to reach out to him directly with questions about working for the National Park Service.

In all, it was a terrific day of forging connections and sharing inspiration for careers in conservation.  Thank you to all our friends and partners, and especially to Eduardo, for coming to share your knowledge!  Hats off to you!


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